Faculty use red flags to communicate

Phillips Academy uses the Student Alert System to ensure that all the adults in a student’s life are aware of any academic problems that may arise in the student’s life. The red flag system is a part of the Student Alert System, which notifies the community about a problem in a particular student’s life. The red flag is a tool that teachers use to alert a student and other adults that the student needs to make changes in his or her life schoolwork before the term’s end, said Temba Maqubela, Dean of Faculty and Instructor in Chemistry. Vincent Avery, Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies, said, “A red flag is a communication between a teacher and other adults saying ‘I am concerned about this student,’” said Avery. “The ultimate purpose is to help the student with whatever problem they are facing,” he continued. Teachers can alert a student before they red flag him or her, though most opt to tell the student immediately. Once a student has been red flagged, the student’s teacher and house counselors will discuss the student’s situation. In all circumstances, they will eventually confront the student about the problem. The Dean of Studies provides the Academic Support Center with a list of all the students who get red-flagged each term, said Deborah Olander, Academic Support Specialist and Instructor in Math. Although it is not necessary to meet with every student who has been red-flagged, the Academic Support Center uses the list to connect struggling students with peer tutors or other support systems. “It’s helpful for us to know which students might benefit from our assistance,” said Olander. Mary Samson ’12, who was red flagged in math last year, said, “My teacher talked to me around the same time she red flagged me, so communication wasn’t an issue, but I think the system was helpful because it was a wake-up call for me to do better in that class.” After being red flagged, Samson sought extra help from her teacher and improved her performance in that class. Maqubela said, “Imagine the opportunity you get to turn things around with so many adults supporting you.” Maqubela said that the red flag system shows a teacher’s desire for students to do their best in class. “[Red-flagging] is one of the most important features of serving, not merely saving, the student,” Maqubela said. Through his years at Andover, Maqubela has seen the red flag system prove its effectiveness, and he said that he finds it “extremely helpful.” Maqubela said that when a student who has been red flagged is no longer struggling in class, he wishes that teachers could “blue flag” the student to reward an effort to “turn things around.” A similar system of notifying house counselors and advisors of a student’s problems existed in print long before it was introduced online, said Avery. The school developed the current Student Alert System in the late 1990s to provide a faster method to alert supporting adults of any problems in a student’s life. This current system features new components such as On Report, Dean’s Notice and Other Concerns.